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Israel Troubles

Thesis: Our beliefs about God have an effect, but also God himself is an active actor in this world, and has real effects. In the case of Israel and the troubles in the Middle East:

The People of Israel are God's Special People

God chose them, and made a covenant with them, and God does not lie. He will therefore protect them according to his promise and his purposes. No hand lifted against them can succeed if God does not will it.

God has protected the people of Israel for 3000 years. Only twice in their history have they been actually defeated, and both times we can see God's active hand in that. All other times, though their fortunes have gone up and down, any other attempts to defeat them have been curiously unsuccessful. Even in the recent decades since the middle of the 20th century.

God takes their side. Not because they are better than other people, but because God keeps his promises, and they are part of his purposes. It seems that, in his purposes, it has come time for them to return to the land he promised them, and (I believe) to manage Jerusalem, the City of God. But they do not at the moment have the favour of God, because ...

God Requires Them To Behave as His Special People

God chose his Special People so they would show forth his own character:

But the people of Israel have not taken this responsibility. The secular among them have trusted only in themselves, and have shown brutality rather than mercy, fear rather than trust. The religious among them have merely sought to obey detailed rules. Both responses might be very natural responses to the situation they find themselves in, but they are not what God wishes.

The people of Israel, like the Christians, have not shown forth God's character. They have not shown his greatness, they have not demonstrated God's love for his whole Creation, they have not displayed God's generosity, they have not borne God's pity for the alien, the poor, the oppressed. (Some have, a minority, but in the main, no.)

In Israel's case the alien are the Palestinians. Israel has shown only arrogance towards them. Even if it has been, materially, better than the surrounding nations towards the Palestinians, the Israelis have humiliated them. Those with power should never humiliate those with less power. That is not God's way; God never humiliates the poor or the oppressed.

Both the Christians over the centuries and the people of Israel in the recent decades have brought God's holy Name into disrepute. The result is that people turn away from God - who is the only real hope for a needy world. That is a serious thing. God will require this at our hands.

God might well protect Israel from its enemies. But he has been known to punish his people severely. God has acted in their history both with protection and with punishment. They know that. Why then do they not realise he is active in these ways today? Why do they continue to dishonour the Name of God?

Some of God's Commands

The religious Jews think they are pleasing God by keeping his commands. They have a real devotion to God, and put fences or rules round each command to prevent people transgressing it by accident. Just like the fence we put to prevent people falling over the edge of a cliff, these fence rules are some distance from the actual important command.

But they are curiously selective about which of God's commands they take care over. Consider the following:

The Command Where Care Taken to Ensure Command is Kept
"Do not cook a young sheep or goat in its mother's milk." Exodus 23:19 Never eat milk and meat together, wait 6 hours between eating them, even use different utensils so they cannot mix. So that there is absolutely no chance of accidentally breaking this law. We love God too much to risk breaking his law.
"Observer the Sabbath and keep it holy" Exodus 20:8 Ensure that all work-related activity is not carried out. Restrict how far you can walk. Use automation to get things done. Do not even press buttons; lifts stop automatically every floor. We love God too much to risk breaking his law.
"Do not mistreat or oppress a foreigner" Exodus 22:21, Exodus 23:9 None whatsoever. Why not?!?

Which of the above commandments most shows forth the character of God? The last one. Why is it, then, that God's People ignore that command with regard to the Palestinians? The Palestinians are oppressed and mistreated. It is no excuse that other peoples do worse; we are talking about Israel's special role here, a role that no other national group has: that of showing forth the character of the Living, Holy God. Not only do they not take care to avoid breaking that command, they openly flaunt it. They have power and a dominant position. Those with power should NEVER humiliate those with less power.

The Future?

God will judge them for this. The troubles of Israel cannot be solved by clever bargaining nor by exerting pressure nor by taking revenge.

God wants to protect them and give them real prosperity. But for this to occur they should trust in God, not in their own devices. Their schemes exhibit desire to dominate, to take revenge, to exert useless pressure.

I pray:

- the Living God who yearns to bring salvation and shalom to his needy world. The people of Israel, secular and religious, are part of this purpose. It is time they took it seriously. Only then will their prosperity, peace - shalom - grow and flourish and they will become the blessing to the world that God meant them to be.
11 October 2000.